ITERATIONS OF SUMMER /10

The rain came to be a refrain that August that would recede like all days into the rearview mirror, an exercise in memory and distance.

 

One wondered how the tomatoes would ever ripen and how the portulaca would ever dry out, soggy like the rest of the garden and the human inhabitants.

 

The old man confessed he was ninety-five when he thought he was taking too much time to tender the sale. His wizened hands, a beautiful testament, nimble and lined.

 

The old woman held her daughter’s hand on the way in and back from the movies. A decade younger than the old man; the daughter prayed the mother would last that long, independent, holding onto the cart while the world whirled by faster.

 

Technology had become a bitch at times. Sucking precious time for quirks and quarks and human idiosyncrasies that multiplied while one tried to sleep.

 

They were in deep in their relationship when the ex called to take it all back if she could, but the young man said no, I am moving in a bright direction.

 

The lesson was coming to fruition with so-and-so. The expensive education finally realized lucrative after a lapse of years.

 

How they go quicker, cartwheeling through it all, the rain and such grievances for a summer freefall.

 

There would be adult freeze pops, frozen margaritas and the like to unwind the work treadmill, join a groove, a de-tempo vibe.

 

The hive mind wanted more honey, less rain, less whine.

 

Facebook had become the helicopter parent. Twitter a cousin to community. Snapchat, Instagram, and voiceclips—necessary formations.

 

The House, an utter disaster mess. The other House of language thriving at best.

 

Gather around, it was time to frolic barefoot in puddles and watery reflections, to jettison sorrows and soothe the postmodern egos.

 

 

 

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ITERATIONS OF SUMMER /8

Sleep took the dreamer after the thunder and lightning to the sea and then a war that descended at the shoreline.

Airplanes decorated the sky without noise or music. Then, the refrain of rain and waking.

On one’s feet all day, the soles hurt and cry out to be unleashed upon sea water.

The heat of August dissipates in the rain.

Things seem the same but different, always different. The collaboration bespeaks a moving forward, a trajectory of tree frogs.

The end-product results in small deaths.

Out of breath, the lungs beg for more oxygen, more garden.

The garden begs for more rain, less lightning.

The dog hides from the severe thunderstorms, unable to go outside and relieve himself.

There are crosses we bear throughout the day and in the crossover of day to night.

So tired all the time, the body cries out for stupor, for dreaming. For believing in gentle kindnesses, the play of animals frolicking in the grass or sea.

We could be a we if we weren’t so tired and jaded. We could laugh all night and decorate the morning.

Love is a camel hoarding rain.

Pain is an excuse for a drama of wanting, of waiting for the particulars of August to collect in manageable order.

There was fodder for the windmill, wind for the empty seesaw.

The film told us things we didn’t want to know. We grew with the garden.

We laughed in the rain. Our pain bound us to our bodies.

Our memories of other summers flooded in.

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The Favor [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

Samual waited two weeks before he approached Ethan and sought him at night—thinking the proprietor would be tired and more likely to comply. The man’s Arabic wasn’t as good as the wife’s, which would also work to his advantage. He had rehearsed his words and possible responses from the husband.

“Good evening,” Samual called as he heard Ethan approach the front porch from his nightly walk on the shore.

Ethan was awkward, caught off guard, though Samual had tried not to startle him. “Good evening, Samual.”

“Thank you again for letting me stay here.”

“You’re welcome. We hope you feel comfortable.”

“Yes, your inn is very peaceful.” The silence was filled with the surf crashing on the shore. “But I’m wondering if you can do me a favor that has to do with forgetting?

The man seemed skeptical, as Samual anticipated.

“Sure— What do you need?” the man asked him, in earnest, he thought.

“My request has to do with forgetting—you and your wife’s well-known expertise.”

Samual hesitated. He felt like he was placing an important bet. “I need you to help me to die. To forget these days of too-old age, these days without my wife.”

The man seemed uncomfortable as Samual knew he would be and unsure how to respond, so he continued, “I’m just so tired and I can’t see anymore. Out of pity, doctors who came to the island offered to remove the clouds in my eyes, but I don’t trust them. And I don’t need to see anymore. Everyone is gone.”

“That’s why you agreed to come here, isn’t it?” the man asked in a voice tinged with hurt, Samual thought.

“Yes, it’s why.”

“I think you misunderstand. My wife and I don’t—” but the man didn’t finish his sentence.

“But there are stories of the woman without memory and your daughter.”

Samual could feel Ethan cringe.

“You misunderstand. We helped the woman with no memory not to suffer any more from her illness. And our daughter—we had nothing to do with her death. You misunderstand,” he reiterated. “We help people to forget.”

“Please let me have some of the potion I’ve heard about.”

“There is no potion,” Ethan claimed.

“Please talk to your wife and ask her opinion,” he pleaded before turning away.

Despite what others said, Samual did believe the couple was kind. He had rallied all his strength and courage to ask Ethan for the favor. He had nothing to lose. It was rumored that he was 103. Dido, the Queen of Carthage, lived to be 127. But he was ready to sleep and maybe see his wife again. He wanted the aches in his bones and the clouds in his eyes to be gone forever.

 

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ITERATIONS OF SUMMER

1.

The dog drove the jeep into the cement base of the Handicapped sign. The traffic continued to flow on the highway. The angels are tired from saving so many. The ghosts cringe in an abstract way. No one finds a four-leaf clover really.

 

2.

The elderly woman can barely count her change. The young caretaker with the nose ring has all the patience of a seed. Some will water the vegetation. Some will wait for the thunderstorms. A tornado could take out the whole town while the people therein are sleeping.

 

3.

The pronouns fell out again. It was all more objective this way. Well, not really. So-and-so says such-and-such. Just another variable out of context, misjudged by some, reported on TV. No trial for impeachment yet. The neighbor, through the window, is brushing his teeth. Voyeurism, an outlet. Watching, a game.

 

4.

There were many games played by many. Hoola hoops and Styrofoam rockets at the party with plastic martini glasses and silver paper goods. The children ran through sprinklers while the adults complained about work. So-and-so did such-and-such and didn’t take a lunch break. What an ass kisser. What a mile ‘til Friday. Time-starved.

 

5.

Nightmares jarred the sleeper repeatedly. There were broken windows and doors—cracked computer and TV screens. The dreamer ran her hand through the glass and watched the disappearing pixilation. She would take the shards to the beach before the end of the summer—to recycle and plant sea glass seeds. Yes, one must be very patient. One must sleep with the lottery tickets under the pillow.

 

6.

The poetry reading was not a bore at all. The poet barely cleared his throat. The audience, captivated, forgot about work and household chores. What a luxury to be entertained without alcohol or drugs. The words made the people very hungry. Some would go out after for pizza and beer. Others would fly into their cars and go home to their significant others, children, or TV. Perhaps a book now. Perhaps a world between pages in which to become.

 

7.

The sign on the door said the baby is sleeping. The writing on the wall said that war would still be going on. There were too many teams and no competent leadership. What could one do, really? Make a phone call; send an email? Text the netherworld. Tell them to come fetch some of the crew.

 

8.

Time should be carefully allotted before it accrues. There is time for structure and time for the play of children and animals. Rub the puppy’s belly. Pull out the string for the bored cat. And then the lounging in the summer grass; walking across it to sooth one’s overworked bare feet.

 

9.

Summer was passing too quickly. Some of the garden, a small percentage really, had been taken out by the Fourth of July and thereabouts heat. Save the vacation for winter and somewhere tropical. Put the loose change in a jar. The waves soothe already in the future.

 

10.

There were metaphysical moments a few in the crowd wanted to talk about, but the words ran right off the page. Like a watercolor on an incline leaving spider maps. The mask should ward off the evil spirits and invite the kindest ghosts to leave their metaphorical forests. We can no longer see the trees; stuck in being [pronouns].

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Further Studies in Existentialism /6

  1. The island within: the ship of the singular brought me here, or I was here all along but couldn’t articulate. There were others I had to send away. They didn’t recognize me.

 

  1. The caregiver doesn’t recognize the beloved. He plays her favorite music, so she has something to hold on to as a steadying branch amidst the fuzzy confusion—and so she will take the collection of pills without biting his hand.

 

  1. With the right haircut, I may be someone different for a while. Is it a coincidence that the hair grays more on the right; the right side of the brain overplayed?

 

  1. How many days can one wear a bathrobe before it is clinical? The philosopher wonders, unable to do laundry. The Sisyphus uphill—at an obtuse angle more difficult to navigate in daylight.

 

  1. There is no noun form to express being overwhelmed. The overwhelm-ation subtracted her somehow.

 

  1. Next month, I will believe in something. I am almost certain.

 

  1. I disappeared again. Damn it. I’ll have to put posters up on the telephone poles and social media. Free lunch if you find me. Bring your spiritual medicine kit; sign the nondisclosure agreement. We can have sushi or tacos—your call.

 

  1. Some people are linear, some circles, some Mobius strips.

 

  1. Are these notes/studies in line with Stevens’ “supreme fiction” or are they just to get by?

 

  1. Drinking coffee, the philosopher knows he is alive and not getting thrown around in dreamscapes, lost in sound paintings.

 

  1. The dog can hear me chewing from the other side of the House. After our long winter hibernation, we are hungry all the time.
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NIGHT GARDENING / summer

Do the neighbors think my flashlight eccentric or that the cat is missing again?

Everything is awash in lavender-blue moonlight—especially the towering monkshood, cascades of verbena lace, the white snap dragons.

Even the ladders of cathedral bells, the waving French vanilla petunias, chartreuse potato vine.

With the proper tools, the hands hurt less and can be tasked with typing between chapters of tending to the poetry garden, the broken statue of Buddha, the incorrect temperature clock, the unruly clematis of magenta and white striped stars.

I remind myself to install the galaxy app tomorrow to better chart the patterns of sky stars in place amidst the errant airplanes.

To be patient with my elderly mother, help get the loudest niece into a quieter line, and train the dog better. He’s been getting away with small pleasures of late but so cuddly at night.

The new vinyl patio table procured this afternoon and more citronella candles, a Brazilian hammock of chartreuse and violet-indigo and white.

The eyes are tired and well with tears. There is just so much here.

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NIGHT GARDENING / MOONFLOWERS

I wrapped the clouded night sky around me to hide the moonflowers growing from my stomach up my throat. Their elegant chalices choked me, making it impossible to speak or make sense of things I used to know.

They were no longer thirsty after last night’s rain but curious about the moths.

When I grew too warm, I shaped the sky into a hammock and listened for trains carrying cargo from one city to the next.

Unable to rest, I struggled to remember a defunct lullaby from my father’s breath.

I had become a voyeur of late, but the old woman across the street did not remember me when I waved to her from the bed of tall grass. She had vacated the world of menus and bills but smiled at me behind her teeth.

Her eyes, like my beloved’s, deep and lost somewhere beyond the surface of things. She crocheted lace, sang in Italian, and could not sleep.

The boys next door had outgrown the basketball hoop this summer and prayed for the attention of the girl down the street. The couple next door had just put their baby to sleep.

So many dandelions in the overgrown grass, I could not possibly sleep. Where was that tool I used last night to pull them from their sockets? Rusted, I’m sure, from too many downpours.

I had taken shelter under this year’s version of the apple tree. Perhaps the gardening tool was there under the picnic bench or by the dog’s fence, the baby’s breath. I don’t know.

The moonflowers were growing at a rate I envied. I had slept all day, too tired from the night and faraway traffic. So much moving, while I stood practically in place, snapping the dead branches from the butterfly bush and hydrangeas.

I gathered night again and wrapped it around me; the moonflowers growing through my hair that in last night’s rain had become a river rushing underneath the apple tree.

The boys next door were dreaming of the girl down the street, her long hair. The old woman sang a defunct lullaby in Italian.

My beloved lives on a star. Come down and hold me with the sky, I wanted the moonflowers to tell him, but he, too, could not speak from where he was dreaming.

 

 

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Chorus [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

We never knew what to make of the couple. They weren’t like us at all—their skin color, their features, hair, attire, demeanors. They seemed fake, frankly. Always smiling and the woman—always trying to eavesdrop and speak Arabic.

And that House of Forgetting of theirs—so open and exposed. Yes, we spied on them—every chance we had. With binoculars from a distance as if we were watching for fishing boats, their boat to transport their guests, sea birds, or falcons.

They must have been very rich to afford a house like that. We doubted that their guests paid enough to maintain that glass box of many windows. They were making money in our country, nonetheless, and had more money than any of us.

They only cared about Westerners—though they tried to befriend a handful of us. The old woman in the souk liked the wife—probably because she spent so much money on herbs and oils for their white witchcraft. They killed their daughter, the woman who could not remember anything, and the oldest man of our village. Those deeds could not go unpunished.

And their lighthouse keeper. He was aloof. Not one of us—and not one of them. There was something cagey about him. Some kind of trouble he had caused—a tortured soul, it seemed to all of us.

We were happy to see them go. Were we responsible? We thought so.

We ransacked their bed and breakfast to see what they had left—perhaps money, their rich possessions, and maybe items from their white magic.

We didn’t know about the book in the safe until much later—when everything would be exposed—just like their house. Some of us, in all honesty, prayed for them. They had supposedly helped many people to forget the suffering involved in being human. It didn’t seem fair that some people’s fate brought them more pain than others.

The piercing cries of the cello left behind would haunt us for years. Would we miss them? We would miss our camaraderie when speaking about them. The us against them. They made us cohesive somehow—Berbers and Muslims alike.

When called to prayer, we would think of them and wonder where they were—if they were still alive. They had aged the last few years. And the woman of the house was starting to forget where she lived and who she was, it seemed.

They were gentle people, in the end. It is a shame they couldn’t stay. We couldn’t let them. It was fate, we believed. They had lived amongst us, keeping to themselves, long enough.

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Girls in White Dresses [from The Glass House of Forgetting]

Dear Sir and Madam,

My family was desperately poor in Taipei. There were nine of us, and I was the oldest.

My parents sold me. I’m not sure how much money they received from the two men in suits who took me from home in the middle of the night.

My mother woke me from sleep. She was crying. Bong hii, I’m so sorry. Please forgive us.

They blindfolded me in the car. When the blindfold was removed, I was in a cage down an alley with other girls in cages. We were called the Girls in White Dresses.  I was twelve years old.

The first man who paid to have me, the term for it—jumped on me like an animal and ripped apart my insides. I bled and cried throughout the whole night.

Many more men did the same. Hundreds. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know who I was. I was not a wife, not a woman—still a girl with stringy, dark hair.

After five long years, one of the other Girls in a White Dress and I escaped after our men left. One of the men had fallen in love with her, came in the early, dark hours of morning and opened our cages.

I heard about your House where guests journey to forget horrible things that have happened. I pray that you have room for me and can help me forget all the men who took my body that I did not want to give.

Please write to me at my return address, the home of my friend’s man friend. He has promised to marry her, but I am skeptical.

I look forward to hearing your reply. I’m waiting with tears in my eyes and my soul in my throat.

                                                                                                                         Sincerely,

                                                                                                                        Bong-hhi

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IMPERATIVE[S]: WARRIOR

Proclaim WARRIOR status.

Pluck the dead tiger lilies. The goldfish orange ones, crumpled, and still wet with death.

Press down hard when you sign the legal documents. No, we’re sorry. No e-sign–and extra postage will be required.

Note: you will need the originals certified by a licensed notary. Please bring five forms of picture ID.  [See Appendix J for list of acceptable, unexpired proofs of identity.]

Count the days until winter with as much bravado as possible. Well, someone like you.

Winterize your favorite bench now as you will miss living in the garden.

Bench more weights for upper-body strength. Yes, you are deteriorating. [Don’t whine.]

Pay attention to the noises and sighs of the dog that was debarked before he ran away and somehow found you.

Talk to the chipmunk who lives in your living-room garage. Tell it to be very wary of the beautiful, apricot fox sighted with a gyrating squirrel in its mouth as it trotted through the width of the property.

Outfox your demons that conspire against you while you are hardly sleeping.

Demonize your fears that gather at your footfall when you stand.

Light the paper lanterns at dusk with the proper batteries. [Return the LED strings of lights that do not work.]

Dust your work station. Carefully clean out the food crumbs in the keyboard and the cat vomit.

Partition individual strains of your disease and their ancillary crescendo-ing.

Hold your arms out like a massive hawk. For at least sixty solid seconds.

[Don’t second guess any scavenged plenitude.]

Locate your favorite pen, the remote control, the sole key to the joint safety deposit box, your only non-broken pair of sunglasses, the prescription bottle to see if there is a refill, the contact name for the removal of private things.

Rearrange the unhappy flowers. Pluck the weak ones and replace with cascading tiny petunia bells [peacock color, and that of coral].

Free the root-bound ones, the chartreuse veins that crowd out the planter. Add nutrients to your own dirt.

Speak vociferously to the looming villages of dragons. Single each out for a good talking to—if your armor does fail.

Mix more blue paint with the green, add white, and then yellow. Then, paint everything orange.

[Repeat.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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